Republicans have been desperately searching for a reason to oppose the appointment of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. Lindsay Graham accused her of being part of the “radical left,” while Josh Hawley wanted to make something out of the fact that she represented Guantanamo Bay detainees while a public defender and in private practice. What they have to say is irrelevant because Democrats have enough votes to put her through without them. At the same time, they have been completely silent on the activities of Virginia Thomas, who is married to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Anything in Jackson’s past pales in comparison to Thomas’ activities and the conflict they pose to her husband’s objectivity.
Virginia Thomas was a participant in the “Stop the Steal” rally-among other activities-and her activities have people questioning Justice Thomas’ ability to be impartial. A professor of legal ethics at Northwestern University Law School told the Hill: “Virginia Thomas should be able to back whatever causes motivate her. The problem is that Justice Thomas continues to participate in cases related to her political activities.” Is it possible that Justice Thomas agrees with his wife’s alliances? If so, how? He is still Black, even if he doesn’t know it. Mostly everything having to do with Donald Trump is steeped in racism and hate, yet a man sitting on the high court is okay with his wife backing these “causes.” Worse, as Professor Steven Lubet pointed out to the Hill, he sits on cases involving much of the nonsense surrounding January 6. Can he truly be impartial?
Judges should be able to lay their personal feelings aside and rule on the merits of cases, but judges are also human. How often can they realistically turn off their own feelings if a case opposes their beliefs? On lower courts, judges must recuse themselves from cases if there is even a hint of a conflict, but Supreme Court justices are not bound by the same code of ethics. They get to decide for themselves whether they are conflicted, which is baloney. There are few people, if any, who can look in the mirror and be completely honest with themselves, and judges are no different. This is a given, and in the case of Clarence Thomas, his ability to remain impartial on issues involving his wife’s political activities should be questioned.
The Hill reported on a letter from Take Back the Court, a court expansion advocacy group, to Justice Thomas. In pertinent part, that letter stated: “It is striking that in more than 30 years on the Supreme Court you have never-not once-recused yourself from a case because of a conflict of interest presented by professional political activities of your wife, a prominent Republican strategist who has been involved in some of the most controversial matters to come before the Court.” Yet, Republicans are up in arms about Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s activities. This is merely another example of Republican hypocrisy, but in this case, it harms us all.
Shirley is a former entertainment writer and has worked in the legal field for over 25 years